Architecture Industry Information: How to get licensed

Getting your Architect’s License
All states, including the District of Columbia, require architects to be licensed. Getting your architect’s license therefore is a necessary step for a student to achieve should they wish to branch to start their own practice, or to lead major projects within an architecture firm.
There are 3 steps an aspiring architect typically takes to become licensed:

  1. Obtaining of an architecture degree, typically a 5 year accredited program
  2. Gain relevant architectural work experience, typically through 3 years in the Intern Development Program (IDP)
  3. Take and pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE)

Each states architectural registration board governs the licensure of its members. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) website centralizes this information and helps aspiring architects gain an understanding of what their board may require to obtain a license.

  1. Obtaining a professional degree in architecture

The first step to becoming professionally licensed as an Architect is a formal education. There are 123 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). An accredited Bachelor of Architecture is typically a minimum of 150 credit hours, and generally takes 5 years to complete. Many architects choose to obtain a Master of Architecture, which is typically 168 credit hours, 30 of which are at the graduate level.

  1. Architectural Work Experience

The Internship Development Program (IDP) is a guide for studied architects to document training and assure they’ve received the required work experience prior to taking their formal exams. The IDP, typically spanning 3 years, includes 4 categories of experience:

  1. Pre-Design
  2. Design
  3. Project Management
  4. Practice Management

Most graduates obtain their IDP training period through practice at an architectural firm as an entry level architect. During an IDP, interns would help prepare architectural documents, research building codes, write specifications, build physical or CAD models, and assist in the design of projects the architecture firm is contracted to develop.

  1. Take and pass Architect Registration Exam (ARE)

Once a student of architecture has gained relevant documented work experience, they are eligible to sit the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). The exam is offered at Prometric Test Centers across the United States, at a cost of approximately $1500 (7 divisions x $210), and is administered exclusively by computer.

There are seven divisions within the ARE for which a student must prepare, each of which will take the student anywhere from 4-6 hours to complete. Exams for each division can be taken in any order, and all combined, will test the prospective architect’s skills for nearly 35 hours. The ARE divisions are:

  1. Construction Documents and Services
  2. Programming, Planning, & Practice
  3. Site Planning & Design
  4. Building Design & Construction Systems
  5. Structural Systems
  6. Building Systems
  7. Schematic Design

Though any portion of the exam can be retaken if failed, it is important to remember that there will be a six month waiting period from when the exam wasn’t successfully passed, until the student can retake that divisional exam over again.


What is the pass rate for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE)?
Each division of the ARE have differing pass rates. Click here for a list of passing rates per division.

On average, when looking across all divisions, passing rates for all candidates (both first time and repeat) is about 67%. Putting in the right amount of study time and preparation to pass the first time will help your chances of obtaining your license, not to mention save you money in exam fees which stand about $1,500 currently.

Are there resources to help me pass the ARE?
There are many resources available to help you pass the ARE.

  • Exam guides: Are available for each division and can downloaded free of charge on the NCARB website.
  • Books / Study Guides / Reference Materials: The NCARB and ARE Advisor websites are great places to find information eBooks, study guides, tips, and practice questions.
  • Practice Exams: There is a cloud based practice exam you can use to prepare. Links and information can be found at this link: There is a $10 subscription fee for these services.


We wish you the best of luck passing your exams. Feel free to reach out to us at, if you have any questions.

As always, other professionals in our industry are often our best source of information. If you have a question for a particular type of architecture, please use our provider directory to find one in your area:

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